This tutorial will show you in simple steps how to achieve a great looking dog portrait.

Arches 140 Lb Hot pressed 12" x 16"

cobalt blue, yellow ochre, magenta et indigo. The indigo will allow the creation of dense colors, close to black, while melting it with ochre and magenta. The cobalt melted with the same two pigments, will give light shades of grey close to white.

Reference Image:

First glaze:

The first glaze will give roughly the prevailing colors in the fur.

Exaggerated the colours. Glazes after glazes, these strong colors will melt.

Notice that from the first brush stroke, each lock is painted in the sense of the fur. From the beginning to the end, whatever the size of the brush, you should always comb the hair and remember that each brush stroke will be seen by transparency.

On the right side, this strong color close to black is a mix of indigo, ochre and magenta.

The Eyes:

As you paint in watercolor without adding white gouache,  you have to search for the most intense light in the reference photo and always think to preserve it in the painting. The first brush stroke in the eyes will be for this white sparkle in the middle. Use a very light glaze of cobalt blue. So light, that you don't see the pigments when it is done. Nevertheless, it is really necessary.

Now the first glaze is dry, using a very dark mix of pigments based on indigo, I paint the edge of the sparkle in the eye and what is pehaps the heart of the pupil.

A few steps further, details of the same eye. As you may see, instead of adding a glaze on the iris to get closer to its brown red color, keep the transparency of the thin original ochre layer and add red-brown streaks. They give at the same time more volume to the eye.



The lower eyelid was not painted in one horizontal brush stroke, but with small vertical strokes to give matter and volume. On the upper eyelid, you see three basic colors : blue, yellow and magenta.


Working on the iris, paint a very light glaze of ochre and let it dry. The next glaze will add a mix of ochre and magenta on the edge of the iris. Then start to paint the pupil with a mix of my three colors, close to a dark brown-red.


On the eyebrow but also on the top of the head, paint the wooly fur with “tremolo” brush strokes. Even if painting stronger glazes over it, your eyes will see it and feel the impression of wool.

On the final image, the basic colors are still there, as strong as at the beginning: The magenta and indigo mixed in a deep violet blue sing beside their opposite colour ochre.

The Nose:

The nose of the dog will allow the painter to give light, life and brio to his portrait. So take your time to succeed it. Underneath, a blow-up of the first glazes. The above of the nose has been painted wet on wet, with a light cobalt shade and a darker mix on the right side, where you can see a few magenta and ochre pigments. With a large brush suck part of the cobalt pigments to give more light on the top.

You have streaks to the right crossing streaks to the left. Easy and quick, but giving a great effect, even with darker shades painted over it.

As the fur was getting more color and contrast around the nose, dare to give more value to the nose. Dampen again all the top of the nose and part of the fur around it, before to add a mix of cobalt and magenta, wet on wet , without laying any pigment on the light. The hole of the nostril is painted with indigo, magenta and ochre, wet on wet first. Then dry on dry. The darker the shadows, the brighter the light.

This detail shows the fine work on the dog moustache. Once more you can see brush strokes of pure colors, whose shades are changing by superposition.

The background:
Nearly pure ochre at the bottom right, pure cobalt on the top left and a violet blue (cobalt-magenta) at the bottom-left painted wet on wet.